Read reflections and testimonies written by Holocaust survivors in their own words.

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  • Uncle Abram

    I was born in Berlin in 1937. The following year, shortly before Kristallnacht, my father arranged for my family to be smuggled across the border into Belgium. We were very close to Uncle Abram—my mother’s brother—and his family. Their apartment was around the corner from ours in Berlin, and they also crossed the border illegally into Belgium around the same time.

    Tags:   harry markowiczechoes of memory, volume 13belgiumdenunciationmemorials

  • Our Poor Shtetl is Burning!

    After the Allied armies liberated Belgium and it was safe once again for us to go out in public, my parents started attending social events here and there in Brussels. Perhaps because they didn’t want to leave me home alone—I was around eight or nine years old—I often went with them to cafés where American musicians played jazz, balls where my parents danced, nightclubs where comedians told slightly off-color jokes in Yiddish, a movie theatre where we saw the movie The Dybbuk, and other social events attended by Jews who, like us, had lived through the war in hiding and who had not seen each other in years. Also in attendance were some of the very few Jews who had survived deportation to the Nazi camps. At the time, the word Holocaust hadn’t yet been coined. In Yiddish, people said: “Wir hoben dus mit gemacht” (We went through that).

    Tags:   harry markowiczechoes of memory, volume 8belgiumjewish communities before the warlife after the holocaustparents

  • Remembrances of a Hidden Child

    I was six years old and playing with several boys my age on the sidewalk across the street from the droguerie run by Mrs. Vanderlinden. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a man in a cassock entering the store. For the briefest moment I wondered what a priest might want to buy in a droguerie, a store in which only household cleaning products could be purchased. Before the Vanderlindens, who were hiding me, moved into the center of Brussels, they lived in an area called Bon Air on the outskirts of the city where I attended a nearby Catholic school. Although they had been nice to me, priests and nuns still made me feel uneasy.

    Tags:   harry markowiczechoes of memory, volume 7belgiumhidingrescuersmemory

  • The Midland Hotel

    It was August 1945, the month I celebrated my eighth birthday. My parents, my sister, Rosi, my brother, Mani, and I were on vacation at the seashore in Belgium. We were staying at the Midland Hotel, a small, three-story building separated from the dunes and the sea by the main coastal highway. Very few other guests were staying at the hotel. 

    Tags:   harry markowiczechoes of memory, volume 7aftermath of the holocaustbelgiumlife after the holocaustfamilymemory

  • Gitele

    In September 1938, when I was one year old, my family left our home in Berlin and crossed the border into Belgium. Although we had entered Belgium illegally, we were given residency permits; however, my father was not allowed to work legally. So he traded in foreign currencies, such as US dollars and British pounds, on the black market.

    Tags:   harry markowiczechoes of memory, volume 7belgiumdeportationjewish councilsoccupationmemory

  • Dunkirk: May 1940

    Following the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. The British Expeditionary Force was posted at the French-Belgian border to prevent Germany from invading France. Between the two world wars, France had built the Maginot Line—formidable fortifications along its border with Germany. On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded the neutral countries of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands in order to bypass the Maginot Line and to invade France where its defenses were weakest. British troops then moved into Belgium to try to stop the German advance toward France.

    Tags:   harry markowiczechoes of memory, volume 7belgiumfrancerefugeesmemoryparents

  • A Bedtime Story

    During World War I, Germany invaded neutral Belgium with the intention of eventually conquering Paris. Major battles took place on Belgian soil and the country was left in ruins at the end of the “Great War.” Remembering the atrocities committed by the Germans during that war, most Belgians hated the “Boches” even before their country was invaded once again by Germany on May 10, 1940. Partly because of that, many Belgians were willing to help Jews, although the penalty was death or deportation to a concentration camp.

    Tags:   harry markowiczechoes of memory, volume 7belgiumdeportationsgestapolettersmemory

  • Revisiting Memories

    Early in 1942, when I wasn’t quite five years old, a German officer accompanied by two soldiers came to our apartment in Brussels. I remember being in the room that faced the street with my mother and the officer. The two soldiers were elsewhere in the apartment. The officer was searching through an armoire, possibly for foreign currency or other valuables, when the doorbell rang.

    Tags:   harry markowiczechoes of memory, volume 6belgiumoccupationfamilymemory

  • Smuggling

    By 1941, Jewish people in Belgium no longer received food ration stamps. The only way to obtain food was to buy it on the black market. Mama started to smuggle food across the border from northern France, where food was still more easily obtained and less expensive. Part of the food Mama bought was sold and some of it kept for the four of us—Mama, my two younger sisters, and me. Also, with the proceeds, we were able to buy perishables like milk and eggs, as well as some vegetables and fruit. During Mama’s trips, I stayed home to care for my two younger sisters, Charlotte and Betty, which was quite a responsibility for one not quite 11 years old.

    Tags:   flora singerechoes of memory, volume 4belgiumfrancefoodparents